A Biden-Harris Win will Save Thousands of Lives, and also Save Our Sanity

It’s not only physical health that’s been decimated in the Dark Age of Trump

Susan Cooke

​I know a lot about depression, not because I’m a doctor or therapist (I am not) but because I’ve struggled with it myself for some time. I know about post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) for the same reason. Not every depression is caused by PTSD but mine was, and from what I can tell, many of the country’s increasing mental health problems are occurring due not only to PTSD from this horrible and painful virus, but to the pandemic’s side effects of sudden grief, loneliness, job loss, hunger, and fear. We’re also stressed by anxiety about what seems an insecure future caused by the attitudes and actions of our cruel and self-serving president.

Research shows that Americans’ rates of anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts or attempts were increasing even before Trump took office, but Trump, surely one of the most toxic presidents in our history, has made our load of chronic stress so much greater that the CDC reports these mental health problems are increasing to even higher levels than before, for many people of different ages and professions, including 25% of young adults who have considered suicide during the pandemic.

US News and World Report tells us U.S. adults reported much-elevated adverse mental health conditions connected with the virus, and “younger adults, racial/ethnic minorities, essential workers and unpaid adult caregivers reported having experienced disproportionately worse mental health outcomes, increased substance use, and elevated suicidal ideation.” The article added that anxiety symptoms were approximately three times those reported during the same time period last year.

This news didn’t surprise me, since for months before the pandemic many friends had told me they couldn’t sleep, and often felt anxious, angry, and frustrated, all because of Trump’s wanton decimation of much in our country they’d respected and thought was sacrosanct. It all was made harder to bear because they felt they had little power to stop him.

Add a pandemic and Trump’s consistently incompetent and uncaring management of it and you’ve got a perfect storm for PTSD, or at least lots of stress, anxiety, and depression. For those who don’t understand much about depression, it causes great suffering in the victim and in family members, in extreme cases makes holding down a job nearly impossible, can lead to heart disease, and can feel like a nightmarishly gloomy altered reality. It so crushes some people they can’t even swallow food. Its final result for some, if not successfully treated –and it can be very hard to treat–is suicide.

One of the best ways to traumatize people is to tyrannize, frighten, or threaten them, especially if they have little or no power to fight back. While reeling from the pandemic itself, most Americans watch in horror Trump’s destruction and rollbacks of rules and laws they thought would help keep them and their environment healthier for years to come. As early as September 2017 the site Quartz reported Trump was “systematically dismantling consumer, labor, and environmental protections, as well as de-funding studies that might make the case for new rules.” In July of that year the administration said it planned to suspend, discontinue, or change 860 rules and regulations, many of which were proposed at the tail-end of Barack Obama’s presidency. It cut rules that would make manual labor safer, “while undercutting those aimed at increasing wages and benefits for the less wealthy.” Trump also made it easier to pay women and minorities less, freezing the “EEO-1 pay data collection rule that August, which required businesses with more than 100 employees to report pay data by gender and race.”

I’m not sure at this writing how many of those changes stuck, or if they all occurred, but living with his constant attempts and threats to assail rules and laws we’d found reassuring only adds more to Americans’ chronic stress.

Other stressful changes include his destroying or degrading alliances with other countries, and his packing the courts, White House, and government agencies with people sympathetic to his frightening causes and beliefs. We see him promote crazy conspiracies that only cause more chaos, hatred, fear, and death, hear his rampant misogyny and racism, and see his open nose-thumbing at fair elections as he admits (with what seems like almost demonic pleasure) that he won’t give the Post Office funds it needs to process mail-in ballots properly. (Someone please tell me why this is not a criminal offense.) He gleefully strips away, often quietly when we’re not looking, protections from global warming and other environmental assaults, only to announce the changes later, apparently enjoying the shock and sadness he’s caused.

Along with the cruelty of his messages and methods, some of us who have experienced mental anguish at the hands of others recognize his behavior as what it also is: emotional abuse. Just as childhood bullies seem to enjoy the stress they cause their victims, and some p​eople have a pathological need to cause ​suffering in a person or animal who can’t fight back, Trump abuses the American people (except for his base) and seems to like doing it. And just as victims who cannot fight off their abusers feel helpless and hopeless, our inability to stop Trump makes us feel the same.

We may become ​chronically depressed if we don’t see any help coming, for example from​ more Republicans who could and should speak up. Mostly they have not​,​ and Democrats who have tried to help are often unable to get very far. So we continue to watch as more lies and destruction occur, when what we desperately need is​ truth, empathy, thoughtful leadership, and a feeling of​ closeness​ to our fellow citizens and with the world rather than increasing separation from them. Such sense of community and cooperation is a hallmark of societies that experience good mental health.

Given all this destruction and despair, how could the country’s mental health not be plummeting?

We are of course not alone. There is always tragedy somewhere in the world, ​but good leadership makes all the difference. As mental health experts ​are surely find​ing​ in Beirut​ while it reels from its deadly explosion​, shock and grief will fuel new cases of PTSD there that ​may last many years, especially since the ​accident came on top of pandemic-caused suffering​. But not all tragedies are necessary​, and in this case a corrupt president and government had already caused crushing poverty. If the​ ​leaders had possessed an iota of empathy, they would have​ ​protect​ed​ the people from ​the danger ​of an explosion ​in that location long ago.

Similarly, in the United States a caring president could have prevented many thousands of virus deaths and untold suffering. Instead, his cruelty and incompetence caused those unnecessary deaths, and grief and loss beyond measure.

​We are now at a crossroads. The wrong decision will harm not just our country but the planet. ​If we don’t remove this monstrously inhumane person from the White House, our future ​will be grim.

But we have two rays of hope: Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. They represent all that is light in this horrendous period of gloom. Just the sight of them glowing during their first appearance together after Biden chose Harris inspired and uplifted people around the world. It even helped me to be able to fall asleep after I learned of the Primary win of a scary racist QAnon-believer who may soon bring her hatred and lies to a Congress near you (with the help and encouragement of Trump).

But Biden and Harris have a tough road ahead because it will be extremely difficult to fight conspiracies, corruption, greed, interference by Trump’s pal and fellow dictator Putin, and all those yes-people Trump hires to do whatever, corrupt or not, to savage the other side.

So I want to propose, for everyone who like me can no longer sleep at night, that we all work our tails off to get Biden and Harris elected.

To that end I wanted to find the best way I could to feel confident donating time or money to help. I didn’t know much about election pacs and funding, and wasn’t sure if I should contribute to a group like Black Lives Matter, or a particular Democratic group or anti-Trump Republican group, or elsewhere.

I asked Brendan Quinn, Outreach Manager at the non-profit, non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics to advise me. He told me about various types of groups people donate to, which you can learn about at the Center’s site. In the end, he said for someone like me without huge amounts of money to give, “The most effective way to support any candidate is going to be a direct contribution to their campaign.” So that’s where I’ll contribute, and after the election will give to other organizations.*

So please help Biden and Harris win so we can start to heal both physically and mentally. And, as they request, please wear a mask, social distance, avoid big gatherings, and wash your hands often. If we work together on this for just a while more, we can protect not only ourselves and those we love, but also medical personnel and all others who endanger themselves in order to help us.

*Brendan Quinn says if you do want to give to an outside group not directly affiliated with a candidate, you’ll want to do some research to make sure it’s actually spending money on things you support. You can check out such groups at the Center, as long as you’re looking at those spending at the federal level. It doesn’t deal with state-level matters such as governor’s races.

Shadows on the Stars

Holding onto Hope in a World that’s Hard to Understand

By Susan Cooke

Sure on this shining night

Of star made shadows round,

Kindness must watch for me

This side the ground.

The late year lies down the north.

All is healed, all is health.

High summer holds the earth.

Hearts all whole.

Sure on this shining night I weep for wonder wand’ring far alone

Of shadows on the stars.

—James Agee (1909-1955) from his first published collection of poems, Permit me Voyage

Twentieth-century classical composer Samuel Barber’s setting of Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Agee’s poem “Sure On This Shining Night” is one of my favorite songs to sing, which I do a lot of when I’m not writing. I love it because it’s an impassioned jewel of a poem filled with sorrow and hope, and because Barber wrote such gloriously inspired music for it. The song came tumbling into my head recently as I pondered when and how all this misery we’re now immersed in would end.

You can hear several lovely performances of it on YouTube, but I was especially moved by this luminous one sung by soprano Roberta Alexander:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SgskIsztC8w.

Agee’s voice as a writer was a major presence during the Great Depression. The website AllPoetry calls his book Let us Now Praise Famous Men “an eloquent and anguished testimony about the essential human dignity of impoverished sharecroppers during the 1930s,” adding that it’s regarded as one of the most significant literary documents of that time. While “Sure On This Shining Night” is not from that book but from the collection of poems Permit me Voyage, the site’s commentary suggests its words must be understood in the context of the suffering and darkness of the Depression, about which Agee wrote so much and so eloquently.

Suffering and darkness were on my mind as the song came back to me, yet my personal take on the poem has always been that in this beautiful world we inhabit, hope must triumph over despair. Lately I’ve wondered more and more, is hope even realistic? And yet I can’t imagine us all moving in any direction other than hope. Anything else is too unbearable. Still, it seems so many of us, with or without forethought, and for reasons many others of us cannot understand, are willing to accept an ending filled with despair.

As your basic non-cynic, I’ve always thought, when it come to most problems, “Of course we can solve it!” But one woman’s comment on the news recently stopped me in my tracks. As experts were calling the rising numbers of Covid cases near-apocalyptic, she was asked, in one of those states where it’s the worst, why she won’t wear a mask (I paraphrase here) even though it might mean she could become quite ill or contribute to someone else’s severe illness. Her answer, “That’s life,” chilled me. When asked, “Even if that other person dies?” she said something I’ve heard a few times now in such interviews: “We all have to go sometime.”

This willingness to contribute to the suffering and very possible death of others–maybe many others–especially coming from a youngish person–maybe late 20’s or early 30’s from what I could tell–old enough to have had a chance to read or watch at least some news and think some about the issues, one would imagine–knocked me flat. My optimism took a dive and I felt awfully depressed. I had to remind myself of all the stories I’d seen and heard in which many Americans are trying to help in any way they can, not just with the pandemic but with fighting racisim and inequality, fighting for fair elections, for kinder prisons, to end the suffering of those without a voice such as children and animals, and to stop global warming.

With so many problems facing us all, and with having to see lately such a terrible confluence of events and words on the world stage that push us toward despair, it’s indeed hard to maintain hope. When we see selfishness or hate revealed by random people on the street who talk to reporters, as has occurred often lately, it’s deeply upsetting not only because we can see they may have been influenced by some of our leaders who we hear voicing similar sentiments, but also because we know it adds to the suffering of many. It’s just hard to accept that some of our fellow humans can be that lacking in compassion.

Some of us wrack our brains asking how so many people can feel loyalty to such a shockingly incompetent, narcissistic, downright mean person as the one now at the helm of our country. We see what we think are bright young people, usually the hope of the world, admiring this person and taking a cue from him that it’s fine to offend and hurt those of other colors or religions, and to kill people by ignoring science if you feel like it. I personally am fortunate never to have met a person like that, so they almost seem unreal or made up to me. It’s naive, I know, but it remains hard for me to understand how people so young can already be filled with so much hate and lack of empathy. Of course the adults who must have taught them also stun and sadden me. So, again, to maintain even a little hope, I must think of the many other people of all ages I know who are out there fighting hard for justice and good.

Still I have to ask, is there no way to reach those who seem so hateful and uncaring, and let them know this is not a good road they’re traveling on? How on earth do we convince them?

I have to reiterate what I always end up saying, that in the end, after all my research I come up with the same solutions for almost all our stressful issues, both in our cities and everywhere else: kindness, empathy, and compassion. These may seem like soft words that can’t accomplish much, but in fact they possess great power and have often caused near-mountains to be moved. And this is what we must do now–move mountains. Of course money and political influence will likely also be necessary because of the way the world works at present, along with lots of education by example. But what ultimately can bring all those things into play is a flood of energetic and deep compassion, pushed and insisted on by citizens themselves, even if their leaders are devoid of it.

In another post here there will be some solutions including those shown by research to help, but at this moment many of us need to make what for some seems quite a difficult leap–from mostly self-interest to caring about and supporting the other person and the need to work together to solve our many problems. We need to find ways to learn to accept, empathize with, and appreciate those different from us, especially right now, in order to help protect each other from Covid-19, and to save the planet from global warming, just for starters.

If we can just begin to do this we may find once more, partly just because we’re working together, our long-lost sense of community, known to be one of the major contributors to wellbeing. We might start to get an inkling of the joy we can feel in a life that involves more than becoming super-successful and living fast, loud, and heavy on the earth even though such a life often causes suffering for other people and for animals. We might discover another kind of happiness in a life that contributes to the greater good even in small ways, such as not torturing our neighbors and further polluting the planet with loud gas-powered leaf-blowers, or destroying someone’s moment of peace with a blasting radio. These are just a few ways of putting empathy and kindness into practice, and they all will improve wellbeing for everyone.

We might like how it feels to live without the hatred or bigotry that makes no sense in a world that needs to move beyond such a destructive aspect of our culture, and to enjoy meeting and learning about those different from us. The fact is increasing research shows that we all need each other. Americans’ existence is sadly isolated now, with a corresponding rise in loneliness and a decline in mental health caused by that loneliness, and by chronic feelings of loss due to moving from job to job, home to home, state to state, and leaving a trail of friends and family behind us each time we go, in search of…what? More success? More thrills? Bigtime success and thrills are nice to experience, but we can also include in our lives proven benefits from deeper, perhaps quieter successes and joys many of us rarely experience because of this lifestyle, such as getting to know and keep even one or two really good friends–or more if we’re lucky–friends who live near us and who we can see often.

So besides what we may have been taught, might it be in large part a feeling of disconnectedness that’s making many of us less kind, or completely unable to care somehow? And could we possibly become more compassionate for ourselves and for others by slowing down a little, giving to ourselves and others more time each day to stop the noise and feel some calm and peace, asking a little less of our careers, connecting more deeply with people, and making our goals lean at least partly toward being in this way a helpful light in the world and for the world?

Could more of us then see the value and the gift of others who share the planet with us, most of whom are really nice to know? Can we start to embrace and benefit from the gifts of nature and of what could become a happier, more serene neighborhood or city? Can we then more easily work hard, all together as partners, on immediate problems such as doing what it takes to get out of this pandemic, lift up our unemployed, underpaid and otherwise struggling populations so there will be less anxiety, depression, suicide, and crime, and resolve policing issues which, I believe, would improve if we did lift those many citizens out of poverty?

When I think of such a world, and of all the good and kind acts I do hear about every day, I regain some of my dashed hopes, and dare to think my longtime dream of humans evolving away from some of their worst qualities and closer to their best ones might come true.

When I sing Sure On This Shining Night, especially the line “I weep for wonder,” I imagine people living more lightly and with more love on the earth.

It’s truly hard to go on without that dream.

Note: To read in more detail about Agee and the poem Sure On This Shining Night, go to https://allpoetry.com/Sure-On-This-Shining-Night

To read more about Samuel Barber’s choices in setting the poem to music, his later setting of Agee’s collection of poems Knoxville: Summer of 1915, and the friendship with Agee that ensued, go to https://www.loc.gov/item/ihas.200182573/

Some Ways to End Hatred

This article is mostly about reducing hatred and the misery it causes in America, but in the background is the rest of the world, which I mention because of what it and America now have in common. We and many other countries now stand on a precipice. At the bottom is the hellish existence we all face if we don’t solve several terrible problems we share including global warming, poverty, the decline of mental health, and hatred and its associates racism and anti-semitism. These problems will be solved more easily if all countries collaborate to share ideas and to help each other.

While current U.S. leadership thinks being a loner makes America great, the world is now so small that other countries seem to live just down the block. We need to get busy, with or without presidential help, rekindling old friendships with other countries and repairing strained relationships with them so we can make our efforts at home to stop hatred also become worldwide efforts to stop it. Many cities outside our country are protesting the murder of George Floyd, watching how we handle this moment, and I think rooting for us to find ways to solve these problems.

Our next step here however must be to arrest the officers who did not try to stop the murder. I hope that’s happened by the time this is published. This doesn’t mean they’re guilty and is not a trial. But doing nothing will only incite further protests which may cause more destruction, or cause our unstable president to again make matters worse by intimidating, offending, and harming protesters with absurdly inappropriate military might.

Next, we all need to see and hear serious talk followed by immediate action, about police reform and about equality for all in this country. The president should stay out of it since his only interest as everyone knows is in getting elected again.

There must be ongoing clear communication with the public about how the case is proceeding including plans for a trial, what plans have already been discussed on changing policing, and what else is in the works now to show we’re serious about laws and reforms that will stop this terrible cancer in our culture. The point is the people need to see action now.

To accomplish what must be the immediate raising up of all who are downtrodden here (now an emergency of the highest order) we need not just the help of government leaders but also business leaders. On CNN this past week Martin Luther King III called at one point for large businesses to help. I agree, because with some thought and effort they can help provide or at least encourage creation of more jobs, higher minimum wage, a racism-free work atmosphere, funding for media campaigns that encourage the same, and more. All businesses need to strive to do this, but Big Business’s big money does talk and can get big things done.

Also critical is the need for better laws at federal, state, and local levels, which must include a strong focus on safe and fair voting, ethically-run elections, much more support for the poor, homeless, unemployed and underemployed, fairness, justice, equal opportunity, and elimination of hunger and homelessness. If all this change requires giving checks to everyone below a certain income, that’s what we need to do (see Annie Lowrey’s book Give People Money).

Our government, business leaders, and educational and research institutions all need to support decent housing and ways to provide more healthy food, including eliminating food deserts and repairing and beautifying now-downtrodden neighborhoods, adding to them healing nature with trees and parks, and adding a sense of safe community by helping business owners open stores and establish cafes, coffee shops, etc. that include outdoor seating. All American cities need more of those amenities that add nature and a place to meet and feel community, because researchers say we are chronically nature-starved and too isolated socially for the most part. But poor communities often have not one of these benefits, and the resulting atmosphere adds to their feelings of hopelessness.

Mayors of cities have already banked up a lot of wisdom, and often have to come up with solutions to big problems with no outside help. Both singly and together with other mayors they’ve been wonderfully innovative. In this case we need them to assure citizens first that there will be immediate police reform, and then to help secure the requirements such as better pay and more food that are mentioned above. Governors hopefully will also help with these changes throughout their states. When federal leadership is lacking, governors and mayors have shown they get a great deal done by helping each other, so we can hope that will continue at least until there is a competent president again.

Chiefs of police are clearly also important in this process, and besides being good leaders of the force must be also humanitarian leaders, and teachers in the community. One critical task they have now is to stop allowing people to become police officers who were once playground bullies, or who ever showed the slightest indication of a bent toward cruelty, sadism, or obsession with weapons, or showed any other psychopathology.

Psychologists who understand police work, then, need to be hired to develop tests and interviews that reveal such personalities, so they are not hired. Once officers are cleared and hired, they should be required to sign contracts that.pledge to respect and treat humanely every individual they encounter. They need to be coached in helping to reduce racism and hatred in their communities, and informed that any actions or comments to the contrary will not be tolerated. Oversight and laws will probably be needed to ensure that these changes are made and adhered to.

The media and ad agencies can help us reach an entire swath of people who are prejudiced in many different ways and for many reasons. Some hate anyone not white, others hate Jews, the list goes on. They’re out there and we’ll probably never know how many there are, but the idea is to reach them and try to help them see why it’s best for everyone including them not to continue this way. This requires educating people wherever possible, not just in school and at home but in workplaces, on TV with messages and shows suitable for both kids and adults, and on billboards, posters, and signs in front of homes as we already see now in some places.

I’ve always believed, perhaps being too much of an optimist, that civilization would finally evolve, becoming kind, empathetic, and wise. Here and there there’s been a glimmer of hope, but given our problems now, that’s not enough. The time to evolve is here. It’s too late for a slow change because this is an emergency. I believe we can do it, and the rest of the world might just follow.

Let the murder of George Floyd help carry us to that new place we should have gotten to long before now. In this new evolved era we’ll need to understand that to stop hate, nothing is likely to work as well as the power of kindness and empathy. Many of us don’t think about these concepts often, so the concepts might have to be taught, and then practiced. Still, good laws will be needed as backup to protect the rights of all during those times when some forget to practice this new ethic of kindness.

Many cynics, or other people who somehow enjoy feeling prejudice, may sneer at the idea of kindness, empathy, and generosity being the norm, and the accepted way to work, govern, and live. Let them. Then remind them that the alternative is further disintegration into the tragic morass in which we now find ourselves. Explain that we all need people to recognize that hate and fear of others gets in the way of happiness for everyone, and often causes much of the harm and suffering in our world.

Teachers in our schools can help deliver this message by promoting kindness and empathy in the classroom and on the playground. They can stop bullies immediately, and then teach them why that behavior is so bad for them and for the world. If the children are bullied at home they need to be counseled and helped. There should be school psychologists available who can help detect whether there is abuse at home or in the child’s neighborhood.

Although many have tried unsuccessfully in the past, each of us needs to continue to encourage and model that because someone’s color or religion is different there is no need to fear or hate them, and that we can all be friends, and benefit a great deal from the friendship. It needs to be a ubiquitous message, at least until there is change. We need to emphasize that friends are important, and that it’s wonderful to have many of all kinds because the mental health boost given us by having such a supportive community is said by researchers to make us happier and even more physically healthy. More happy people seem likely to help to make the world a happier, less violent place. We need to get across that being together as one people is actually possible, and is much better for us than division and hate. Children need to get this message too, early and often.

To further encourage this togetherness, I can report that rapper Killer Mike, asked by Stephen Colbert on his show what else we all can do to help, requested that we donate to and/or volunteer to work with one or more of the many grassroots organizations trying to help African Americans in many cities, such as Movement for Black Lives, and commit to doing this for some time.

I’ve mentioned ad experts and the media. They can help by crafting and showing messages and PSAs that remind us that treating others kindly is no longer just a nice thing but is essential, and that not getting to know those who are different out of fear and old hatreds makes our lives much duller and surely less joyful. I’m no ad expert but here are some of my (rough) ideas for marketing slogans, which I imagine might have some good art to accompany them: “Love people. Most of us are really cool,” or “Love. It feels so much better than hate,” or “Most people are fascinating. Don’t hate them. Get to know them!” And there’s an older one that’s still good: “Live and Let Live,” or another version of it I came up with: “Live and Help Others Live.”

A nationwide deep apology is also now called for, and it should come from every business and government leader.

We can do this. The wrongs that have been done are clear. If we can’t make this cultural shift toward changing from hate to love, then the tyranny and suffering will continue. If we can’t manage to turn toward kindness as the American way of life, we are not only pathetic, we are lost.

Trump, Declining Mental Health, and “What Is a Life Worth?”

Susan Cooke

“What is a life worth?” was asked many times as the insanely premature plans to reopen the country began to be pushed by the White House. I heard no good answer so I’m asking it again. While I’m at it, I’ll add a corollary: What is mental health worth?

I’d like to consider mental health and the President’s effect on it before, during, and after the pandemic. You probably know this already, but poor mental health, besides causing emotional suffering, also affects physical health. Yet many government and business leaders have ignored the fact for years.

I wrote here awhile ago thatTrump seemed to be affecting the country’s mental health because his words and actions so deeply upset many people on so many levels, but during this pandemic what he’s done makes past occurrences fade in comparison. In this post I try to encourage him or those around him who can influence him to stop and reconsider what he’s doing to Americans’ mental health, along with the risks he’s forcing many of us to take physically by reopening without a clear, safe national plan.

Even in the best of times, Americans (and those who imitate us) live with a lot of stress, much of which could be prevented with awareness of some practices now known to cause stress, and with kindness toward ourselves and each other. (It doesn’t help that our President’s chronic rudeness, lack of empathy, and focus on himself models for Americans that not caring how others feel is normal and okay. )

In my research on stress in American cities I keep finding evidence that much of Americans’ increasing anxiety, depression, and numbers of suicides seem to be caused least in part by our own non-stop, incessantly driven lifestyle, plus our having lost once-common practices that prevented stress and depression and promoted good mental and physical health. Little is said about these losses, probably because people aren’t sufficiently aware of them. Certainly hardly anything is said by government, business, or schools.

It’s critically important that those with the power to do something about it understand the basics at least, because these stresses are everywhere but are more pronounced in cities, and there is now research showing that people’s lives are actually being shortened just because they’re living in a big city as many of us do. Sadly, now we’re facing mountains of stress beyond those, due to the pandemic.

There is no more room for added stress, yet that’s what the President is handing us with this too-soon, carelessly-planned reopening. Besides added deaths from the virus, I’m truly worried about the massive PTSD and increased depression and suicides likely to be caused as a result of them and of the chaotic reopening. Those in power need to take mental health extremely seriously right now. So I’ve listed here just a few of the problems we already struggle with in hopes it will help to convince them to slow or stop this reopening, and also convince them to pay much closer attention to mental health from now on.

In addition to the many authors of works on this subject I want to especially thank and credit Stephen S. Illardi, PhD, for the valuable information on the mostly depression-free lives of early humans that informs his immensely helpful book, The Depression Cure, and thank Daniel Buettner for his amazing research and books on what keeps people happy and healthy in the “Blue Zones” of the world.

Research shows that a great many Americans are stressed by an obsession with getting where we’re going (and doing it in record time), whether it’s to the next thing on an endless to-do list, the next step to becoming major successes in our fields, or accruing enough money or fame to feel we’ve reached the top.

Before the pandemic, and even before Trump, both adults and kids were not only feeling societal pressure to drive themselves mercilessly, but also suffered from the stress of lack of community. Early humans lived in tribes in which everyone helped and supported each other day and night, and we’re wired to thrive in the presence of others. Isolation is, as we all now know for certain, very hard on us.

While phones are helpful, and crucial right now, using them as constantly as we do in many ways further isolates us. Our heads are bent down to our phones so often that it keeps us, for example, from saying hello to a neighbor passing on the sidewalk who potentially might become a good friend. Connections with neighbors are more likely to last than those at work, though in our culture any lasting connections at all are much more difficult to make than in earlier times. So we suffer from the isolation that’s become the norm, rather than the communal support that once was the norm.

We also suffer from a lack of time outside in nature. Early humans lived outside much of the time and we’re wired to feel good among trees, flowers, and sky, hearing birds, and feeling and hearing the breeze rustle leaves. In this case again modern conveniences diminish our chances to experience wellbeing, as noise and/or pollution from cars, diesel trucks, leaf-blowers, power saws, planes overhead, and people shouting on phones or playing loud radios all prevent us from benefitting from nature, while also raising our blood pressures (even if you don’t think you mind the noise it still raises your blood pressure.)

Some of our stresses begin quite early in life. The societal pressure to “succeed” in a big way, while it may be invigorating for some, for many is way too much, and even for those who like it, keeping at it nonstop as many do promotes mental illness.

There were many suicides already occurring in kids before the pandemic. And we know children are further frightened by the pandemic. Psychologists are seen often now in the news, trying to help us calm them. The Jason Foundation, a group trying to prevent youth suicides, reports that in the U.S. we lose an average of more than 130 young people each week to suicide. The foundation is making available extra measures parents and others can take to prevent suicides of young people during the pandemic.

https://jasonfoundation.com/youth-suicide/facts-stats/

Let’s say the community and nature problems were solved. The adults and many kids would still find it hard to get off the steep slope that must be climbed to the required success, even if they wanted to. Many children with especially ambitious parents may try to keep up but it’s nearly impossible to do that and still be a happy child. So you see tragedies such as the teen in a town near mine who killed herself because she got a B in math instead of an A. Adults in fact also are killing themselves more often than in the past. An April 2020 USNews post reports the U.S. suicide rate has jumped 35% in the past two decades.

If chronic extreme stress leads to chronic anxiety or depression which if not treated and if severe enough can lead to drug use, alcoholism, heart disease, and worst of all, suicide, then you can see why adding even more stress right now to Americans’ lives is so dangerous. Yes isolation is especially stressful now, but it’s temporary, and is nothing like what we’re going to see with a second, likely even worse wave of the virus. The idea is to deal with a little longer isolation so we can stop the virus’s spread sooner, and then work hard to create more community than ever before (but with more of us alive).

We should also consider the extra stresses of many less well-off families who have so few financial resources that there’s little hope of a child ever going to college or anyone in the family getting a job that pays enough to live in a remotely healthy way (the inability to afford healthy food also takes its toll on both physical and mental health). Don’t forget the homeless, and undocumented workers, whose stress must rarely ever end. All these stresses on so many people, combined (again) with poor diet can lead to a host of physical ailments, and of course to depression and more of the “deaths of despair” we’re finally beginning to hear about, though they’ve gone on for years. It’s now time to pay attention.

Of course workers need their jobs, but as with ending our Covid-caused isolation, we would do better to be patient just a little longer to return to work. We’ll need the government to keep people going however, with food, shelter, and bill payment now until it’s safe, or for some people much longer than that, or else we start the torture all over again.

The causes of and antidotes for these stresses are so many and complex that we’ll probably need to take several paths toward solving them. But the solutions that can help, such as assuring more financial support through equitable wages, seem unlikely to be initiated unless we begin to embrace what essentially would be a change in our culture.

It would go something like this: de-emphasize the value of tons of money over what we might call “more than enough” (which would admittedly require government to address inequality, and again to make sure everyone has enough for at least a reasonably good life–for more on this see Annie Lowrey’s book Give People Money). We would re-think why we make ourselves endure long hours of overwork with little time off once we do have enough money to feel okay, and reconsider whether power, fame, or just the so-called success so many believe all this effort will eventually bring makes sense anymore. Is this really the healthiest, happiest way to live a life?

Some call it Socialism if you try to assure that all people have enough money for a reasonably good life, but I don’t think a label is needed. For those who insist on one I suggest “humanitarianism.” The goal is to stop the suffering of vast numbers of people. To get people to think about change along these lines of course, it would help to have someone in the White House who believed such change was helpful and possible. Well, maybe later.

All this background stress and other stresses I haven’t covered such as racism have certainly made getting through the pandemic even worse than it might have been, and will make it harder to face further challenges we know are coming with possible second or third rounds of the virus, and later with other crises we need to get working on including climate change.

But what we need right at this moment is to feel safer, which means stopping or slowing reopening. So I’m appealing to Trump, Congress, governors, and mayors, to stop now in order to save more people from getting the virus, but also to save our mental health. For them to make that decision they have to value empathy and kindness more than ever before. If they won’t, we need to make sure that next time around we elect leaders who get it. We as a society also need to help anyone who is suffering mentally or physically, and to try to find ways to help everyone thrive. Or else what has America become?

The virus is barely being controlled and is only minimally understood. There is no consistent national plan to deal with the complex problems we’ll face with a second wave, and with the near-impossibilty of safely opening businesses, schools, and restaurants this early in many areas. For weeks now there hasn’t even been any alcohol in our neighborhood CVS. (We did just find a quart of it online—for $35.)

This is just more evidence that we’re not ready. It’s clear that without immediate intelligent action there will be more lack of supplies, more chaotic or nonexistent guidance, and more illness and death due to the virus but also likely to suicide. The virus is now estimated by some to lead to as many as 75,000 more deaths of despair from accidental overdosing, over-drinking, or intentional suicide. CNN Health’s Mallory Simon writes that the national public health group Wellbeing Trust’s Dr. Benjamin F. Miller forecasts further damage to mental health:

“Unless we get comprehensive federal, state, and local resources behind improving access to high quality mental health treatments and community supports, I worry we’re likely to see things get far worse when it comes to substance misuse and suicide.” 

https://www.cnn.com/2020/05/08/health/coronavirus-deaths-of-despair/index.html

But Miller added that the numbers are a projection, and the right action could change them. So we don’t have to have all this added illness and death, from deaths of despair or deaths from the virus. Is anybody listening?

Trump likely would answer that this is why he ‘s reopening right away, and how could a good economy not make us all happy and healthy? His selfishness, ignorance, magical thinking, or whatever it is, allows him to remain in denial about (or to ignore) the likely reoccurence of much more suffering and death. The scientists keep assuring us it’s dangerous to reopen so early. Yet that’s what most states are doing, with Trump’s grinning encouragement.

It would probably be a relief to many if state and city leaders now starting to open would pause to study what Governor Cuomo of New York is doing. He’s gone beyond CDC guidelines to implement detailed extra plans and safeguards. Governors or mayors, you could tweak this plan where necessary, but the main part of the work is already done, so why not use it to help open your own area more slowly and safely? Why rush into more hell on earth when you have a good guide to making it less hellish?

Another virtue of Cuomo’s plan is that it doesn’t abandon those who are struggling financially. He took time for example to begin a program that delivers milk that farmers were dumping in one part of the state to places that feed the hungry in another area. This is inspired leadership, and just what we need.

Why cant’t Trump see that he’s going to destroy more mental as well as physical health with this scary reopening? Maybe it’s because he’s so driven himself, toward goals not much associated with the thoughtful, selfless, and generous qualities a leader must have in order to get people through a frightening crisis like this. His lack of those traits also makes him a terrible choice for President in the future, when such qualities will be needed to negotiate the many challenges quickly moving toward us.

For me one of the most distressing things he’s done besides modeling openly that lying, insulting, belittling, and offending others are fine behaviors, is to spread more chaos and despair through cruel power plays. One of the worst was forcing already financially-strapped states and cities to compete for the PPE their health workers were almost on their knees begging for, for weeks. What they were really begging for was their lives and the lives of their patients. Imagine ignoring such heartbreaking desperation. He did, and now many of those workers and their patients are dead.

It’s also disturbing to see how much of the country is in denial about the tragedy this reopening will cause. The President, his cronies, and some media outlets are all guilty of letting this false idea some have that the virus isn’t so bad continue. They must take some blame for the added deaths, whether from the virus or from suicide. They’re adding also to the wrecking of mental health by causing more stress, anxiety, and PTSD that for many will last for years.

Also distressing is Trump’s most incomprehensible cruelty yet–admitting he not only knows opening so soon will cause more deaths, but accepting it as fine, and trying to get us to accept it, and to say these new deaths are worth it. He says Well, people are dying anyway. I say they would not be dying anyway if he had quickly and with thought and care responded to the pandemic from the beginning. But you have to have both a heart and a love of something besides yourself (such as a country) to do that.

I watch with despair as the country opens, dreading more announcements of added deaths as people move around more. I despair when I see on the news people who shoot others who ask them to wear masks, when a customer at an ice cream shop shouts obscenities at a seventeen-year-old girl trying in vain to get ice cream to him fast enough due to unexpected crowds, and when I see people gather closely in groups without masks, and sometimes even with guns, as if the virus were nothing more than one of the hoaxes Trump is always blaming on Democrats; as if adding to this horrific mix more deadly weapons or more nastiness toward others will help.

Clearly they’re acting partly out of stress but at least some of this behavior was and continues to be encouraged by this President and his modeling of crude and hostile treatment of people who cross him in the slightest way. It’s sad to see such meanness and division when there’s already so much suffering, and such a need to help each other.

If we don’t stop or greatly slow the reopening, we are in essence being sentenced to death by Trump. His message is that reopening (rather than paying workers so they can survive at home awhile longer) is needed even though it means that our life or that of someone close to us is now more likely to end sooner, having been sacrificed for Trump–so he can feel he’s more likely to win a second term. His triumph in this is that it will finally give him the fame he craves. He’ll be perceived as one of the shallowest, most selfish, and meanest leaders in modern history.

Meanwhile the cruelty and breathtaking narcissism continue. Therefore all there is left to do, it seems, is to beg all people who have influenced him in the past to get him to change, and even if they think his self-interested course is going to make America great, to change their own course because it’s the humane thing to do. Convince him to save lives and mental health now, by immediately assuring that 1) needed money gets to the poverty-stricken and jobless now and in the future, 2) that he stops or drastically slows the reopening until all needed hospital beds, PPE, vaccine and testing supplies, and for the public other needed supplies such as alcohol, are in place, 3) a clear plan exists to procure and distribute to all patients who need it more Remdesivir and any other proven-safe treatments that help, and 4) there is a a detailed safe, organized, consistent reopening plan everyone can understand, one that is based on science and not politics.

As to the question “What is a life worth?” my answer is that not one life should be lost so a President can reopen recklessly in order to use a good economy (and it’s doubtful it will even be good) to make himself feel less nervous about the election. We don’t need to fix the economy this minute. Instead we (and he) can make sure everyone is kept fed and housed, with bills paid (or bill payment delayed), until reopening is much safer. A second virus wave and re-quarantine will cost much more than would waiting and keeping people supported and safe right now, and he knows it. He also knows that not waiting will cause a lot more death and despair. He just doesn’t care.

To further bring this point home, emergency physician Leana S. Wen, writing in the Washington Post, refuted several arguments often made as to why we should reopen early, explaining their major flaws. Her answer to the argument “It’s worth the sacrifice if some people die so that the country has a functioning economy,” is that “Those making it (the argument) are committing others to a sacrifice they did not choose.” Amen.

Her article is at https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/05/10/six-flaws-arguments-reopening/

Movies to Brighten Your Stay at Home

I posted an antidepressant movie list on this blog awhile ago (it’s still there), and some of the films below may be on it. But for now here’s what I’m going to be watching in the next few weeks, that you might enjoy too. It’s slightly heavy on classics since I love them, but there are newer ones too. I only chose films that are engaging enough to help keep me (and you I hope) from worrying or getting depressed! I did not include children’s films here but teens may enjoy many of these. Children not too young, maybe 8 and over, may like nos. 2, 3, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, and 15:

  1. Moonstruck—Cher as an Italian Cinderella, gorgeous music from La Boheme, fabulous performances by Cher, Olympia Dukakis, and Nicolas Cage.
  2. If you can get hold of it,The Demi-Paradise starring Laurence Olivier. It also stars one of my favorite English actresses from that period, Penelope Ward. During WWII Russian engineer Olivier comes to England to help the British with an important technical challenge, and falls in love with a young Englishwoman.
  3. Another WWII film, also with Penelope Ward, wonderful Michael Wilding, and hilarious Margaret Rutherford, one of my absolute favorites, again if you can get hold if it, the delightful English Without Tears.
  4. Fabulously funny In & Out, with Kevin Kline, Joan Cusack (hysterically funny performance), Bob Newhart, Matt Dillon, & Tom Selleck. A Frank Oz Film.
  5. Welcome to Mooseport, with Ray Romano and Gene Hackman. For me it never gets old!
  6. Dave Stars Kevin Kline as a stand-in for the U.S. President, Sigourney Weaver, and, both marvelous, Charles Grodin and Ving Rhames

7. Again, if you can get hold of these next few: My Life With Caroline with dashing Ronald Coleman (dated but great fun anyway) with some loveable characters and an adorable bulldog partway through

8. All Over the TownBritish post war comedy, engaging and a good story about a newspaper in a small seaside town. Stars Norman Wooland, Cyril Cusack, Sarah Churchill

9. From the Universal Vault Series: Ruggles of Red Gap, with an unforgettable, funny, and moving performance by Charles Laughton, and another of my favorite classic movie actors, Roland Young (film nominated for Academy Award for Best Picture, 1935) Laughton plays a formal, cultured, and accomplished valet whose beloved British employer loses him in a late night poker game to a newly-rich rancher from the Washington town of Red Gap. Scintillating performances by all.

10. The Voice of the Turtle (also sold as One for the Book). I love this so much I watch it at least twice a year. Ronald Reagan is charming in it, Eleanor Parker is one of the most delightful characters you’ll ever see in a movie, and Eve Arden plays one of her best character types–sophisticated, bossy, and a good friend as long as you don’t even glance at the current man she considers her property! Wonderful story.

11. A Stranger in Town This is one of the few films I’ve seen in which Frank Morgan (the wizard in the Wizard of Oz but often cast as a bumbling or ridiculous character) plays a strong, wise, and extremely likeable man–a judge who’s on a rare vacation. It’s a very good drama also filled with comical scenes and a romance of course. Morgan steals the show.

12. Separate Tables A drama with a good story and wonderful actors: Burt Lancaster, Deborah Kerr, Rita Hayworth, the wonderful and too-little-mentioned actress Dame Wendy Hiller, and David Niven. Niven and Kerr both play characters completely opposite in type to their usual glamourous leads, and win Best Actor and Best Actress Academy Awards for their efforts. If you’re a classic movie fan you hardly recognize them because they so completely become those characters. Wendy Hiller also won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. The film was nominated for Oscars in several other categories: Best Picture, Best Cinematography, Best Musical Score, and Best Adapted Screenplay.

13. Three modern and fun romances now: The first is See Jane Date, which is often dryly witty as well as sweet. All women, plenty of men, and many teens will appreciate Jane’s challenges at work and in dating.

14. The Sweeter Side of Life, in which a character is thrown suddenly from a shallowly glamorous life in NYC to baking cupcakes out in the sticks. Kathryn Morris is perfect as she struggles mightily with the transition, and learns there are things in life that mean much more to her than lunching out with her designer-clad friends. A funny, warm, and very enjoyable story.

15. So You Said Yes is a Hallmark Romance and quite an entertaining one, as creative shop owner Kellie Martin deals with business problems caused by the mother of the guy she’s falling for.

Where to Find the Movies

Some of you asked where to find those older movies on the list I recently posted. A great place to start is Turner Classic Movies which shows many of them–look at their daily or monthly schedules to plan to see or Tivo one when it comes up. You can find some of the classic movies online too, new or used. Keep trying if you don’t find one right away.

To buy a DVD google TCM Shop to get right to what thery have available. I’d type DVD (or Blu-Ray) before the title to keep them from jumping around the store too much (they have mugs etc.) I see they have The Demi-Paradise ($7.95), Ruggles of Red Gap ($17.21), The Voice of the Turtle, ($9.95), A Stranger in Town (2 versions, both around $7), and Separate Tables ($17.96). The other, newer movies can often be found through Amazon being sold new or by used bookstores and individuals out of their collections. These are the ways I’ve gotten my copies.

Brutalizing Donkeys

WBUR just released a story of horrendous and competely unnecessary animal cruelty, suffering, and death, for big profit, mostly in China. The cruelty is increasing worldwide and could even lead to extinction, or just more and more cruelty, if it isn’t stopped. There is not one redeeming detail in the treatment of the animals. The report of what’s going on is in a link below, and I beg you to help stop it by helping the charities that are trying to, by writing your reps in Congress and even the president, and doing anything else you can think of.

Even before I read this story I learned that donkeys in our own country are already suffering a great deal for other reasons, which I discovered when I found that a donkey sanctuary here is among the charities CNN features and is in the running for the top slot of CNN Heroes.

But right now donkeys all over the world are dying horribly for things like face cream and unproven medical remedies for problems that definitely can be helped with other treatment. Villain number one is China, where donkey death brings in huge profits. The result is a number of travesties in other countries such as Africa where people want to get money for the animals, donkeys being stolen from poor families whose one donkey is a companion and helper, and more. In all cases, abominable amounts of suffering occur.

I’ve left a link to the report at the end of this post. To borrow from a comment I sent the site, I’ll say that as long as we’re cruel to animals or make any living beings suffer torture (packed tightly with each other for days without food and water as they travel to an often extra-inhumane death in crummy slaugterhouses) we’ll remain a species that won’t evolve to be the kind, humane, and truly happy one we could be (which I do/must believe is possible). One thing we might do in the meantime is continue to work to make sure ALL people have at least reasonable income so they don’t go along with such cruelty to get more money. But clearly there’s a lot of sheer greed at work here, so I urge all leaders, agencies, and powers that can do anything to stop this to immediately take action.

Also in the news on the same day was a report on rising stress in many parts of the world, with our country among the most stressed, and this is related because it’s extremely stressful to most people to learn of wanton cruetly done to any creature. If we don’t act now to stop this unfathomably barbaric brutality to an animal who is sweet, charming, lovable, and has served humans for centuries, we also punish ourselves with more sadness, hopelessness about the world, and depression. It certainly depressed me.

China especially should be punished. This is coldhearted greed, lack of empathy, and lack of basic humanity (the good part of humanity, that is) that is off the charts and to which we all should say No, and say it now.

Here’s the link:

https://www.wbur.org/npr/716732762/donkeys-are-dying-because-china-wants-their-hides-for-a-traditional-remedy

Animal Agriculture and Amazon Fires–a Reasonable Solution

Since I’ve been hearing for years that animal farming converted to plant farming could feed everyone on the planet, and since the animals suffer so horribly, I could never understand why the world had not at least begun to move toward this change. Now of course it’s an even bigger emergency as the Amazon burns and we hear it is again largely because Europe (and I guess other places) wants more and more beef. I looked around to see if anything is being done at all right now with the animal farming issue due to the emergency we now face in the Amazon, and found a page of various contradicting views. Then I found the article I want to tell you about, on the Forbes site:

Who can Really Stop the Amazon Fires? by Justin Adams.

It makes a lot of sense because Adams sees that in order to make the needed changes we have to support the businesses reliant on earnings from their current activities that damage the forests (such as cattle farming). I have always believed something similar to this kind of thinking is the solution to most of our problems. Make sure those who would lose money due to the changes are pretty well supported financially while we help then to convert to something less harmful, or ideally not at all harmful.

I urge you to read Adams’ article (it’s not too long) and encourage your government leaders, as I now do, to use this and similar methods as soon as possible to help save the rainforest, but also in other cases where there is any emergency that causes suffering of living beings, human or animal, caused by a business that’s the livelihood of people who also need to survive. As for the Amazon right now, in addition to the health of the planet that’s already in dire straits from global warming, don’t forget all those beautiful and often-endangered forest animals who are suffering and dying in the flames, or the healing and sometimes life-saving Amazon plants experts have been discovering that are now being destroyed.

Sure it will cost money to support the businesses as they convert to something else, but what is money for if not to keep our Earth healthy so we, the animals, and the plants can all thrive? And what will it cost if we don’t make the changes? Of course we’ll also have to stop eating beef and using many other animal products, and help businesses to find ways to produce other things we need (as Adams discusses) that don’t harm the trees. Don’t be afraid of this. Innovation is alive and well in the world and much has already been done to solve the problem of what to use for food, clothing, shoes, and other products, instead of using animals or using harmful methods when safer ones are available. Many of us have been doing that for some time and have become much healthier than we used to be (myself included). We also feel free of the burden of knowing we no longer cause suffering, though we get depressed about how much suffering continues.

Meat substitutes are getting fairly sophisticated, though I don’t crave them and find getting creative with plant food healthier and surprisingly enjoyable. Imagine the resulting decrease and maybe even ending of the current 24/7 agony of beautiful, innocent animals. You may not hear their cries of terror and pain, but believe me the suffering goes on all the time. How blissful would it be to know we’re ending it as a side effect of saving the planet and feeding the world’s hungry? But we’ll also be helping decrease other damage, as Adams describes, by using less harmful methods to get products we need from the forests. There’s a reason they call the Amazon rainforest “the lungs of the planet.” Do we really want to leave a barely livable planet to future generations? Our children are already angry with us for much of what they see now. Let’s not wait and discuss it endlessly. The time for action is now.

Adams describes the kind of things that can be done logically and clearly. He gives me hope. Please do read the article. Here’s the link:

https://www.forbes.com/sites/worldeconomicforum/2019/08/29/amazon-fires-people-focus/#23f9466e1cd2

IN MEMORIAM

For a Country and a Planet

The planet, a diverse paradise of oceans, rivers, mountains, forests, and plants and animals of unimaginable beauty, was the only one in its solar system inhabited by all these, and by sentient beings called humans, or people. Many of the people lived joyous, peaceful lives, yet some sometimes became ill with unfounded fears about each other that led to hatred, tyranny, and even wars they never learned to prevent even though each was more terrible than the last. Eventually their weapons became more ferocious, until they were so powerful they could destroy large swaths of the planet and all that lived on it. 

Despite it being clear that humans were imperfect and often made mistakes or became unbalanced, no one stopped the creation of the weapons and the use of materials that could make more of them. Neither did they stop creating smaller weapons that caused murders of many of the people by only a few individuals. It seemed that no one could stop them because powerful groups of people who were addicted to weapons would not allow it. There was more and more killing followed by crippling sadness in people who lost those they loved.  

Some of the most powerful people were so consumed with their own desires that they ignored the suffering of all others, including the people whose loved ones were killed in mass slaughters. It became clear many were killed mostly because they were not the same white color as most of those in power, or prayed in a different way from them. During this same period, many of the powerful also ignored the looming demise of the planet, as it grew sick from toxins created by the peoples’ industries, showing its grave need through increasingly dangerous fires, storms, deaths of species, and destruction of the natural areas that made it so beautiful. In the end the powerful people let the desperate planet struggle until it died, taking with it all living beings, most of whom had been innocent, kind, and good. 

The pieces of land called countries had looked for guidance to one country considered the greatest, whose founders had possessed great vision. But in this country’s latter days one of its temporary leaders, elected under murky circumstances never completely understood, began to talk of permanently extending the job he had already made into something like the reign of a king. Unlike his predecessors, he was mad and sick with power and greed, and devoid of the great human quality of empathy. He worked both openly and in secret to undermine every effort of those fighting to save the people, the country, and the planet from each other’s weapons and from the planet’s illnesses. 

He soon was acknowledged as the country’s first leader desiring to be what people called a dictator. These were the worst leaders in this world’s history, and always left suffering and death in their wake. Though already wealthy and powerful, he took advantage of his position to gain yet more, despite the cost to the country and the planet. To this end he put in powerful positions people who thought as he did or who would do what he commanded without question. 

The people began to suffer from fear and grief as they watched him destroy laws and rules that had protected them and their beautiful world, and make new ones that made them feel unsafe, causing endless worry and stress. They saw him align himself with other dictators, and with a growing group of people that, like some similar groups in the past that were responsible for murdering millions, spread hatred of all those different from them. They watched him befriend yet others who seemed to love weapons, and who, when grieving families worked to ban them, blocked their every attempt. It didn’t matter to the dictator or his allies how many lives the weapons took. Their turning away from the suffering created a well of sorrow in the country so wide and deep that an anguished cry for the country’s sake was heard throughout the planet. Yet they let the deaths and the mourning of the people, and the destruction of the beautiful planet go on and on. All that seemed to matter to them was wealth and power. The dictator himself believed he was all-powerful, as indeed he seemed to be.  

He and his associates came to symbolize to the people all that was immoral, unethical, cruel, and–in the end we would have to say–evil. Some who could have stopped him were afraid of losing their own positions, so remained silent and continued to obey him. They too became symbols of cruel indifference. The people began to call them all by a name reserved in their history for those they’d reviled the most: traitors. The powerful had betrayed with stunning heartlessness their fellow humans, the great country’s founders, and the beautiful planet with its marvelous creatures.

Who can say if there will ever again exist such a wondrous world, or beings similar to those of that planet, now lost to us? The creator or whatever force made it would have to find a way to make intelligence in each being a trait infused with abhorrence of hate, greed, and tyranny. All people including leaders would need to be born with generosity and the desire for peace ingrained in their very cores. Until such a marvelous thing occurs, all we can say further about this world that contained so much raw material from which could be made such a beautiful existence, is that we miss it, and we will long mourn its passing.

No Excuses

No Excuses

Around the world people are starving, others are suffering as war rages around them, water resources are endangered, rain forests are disappearing, the ever more dangerous effects of climate change are increasing, and fellow humans at home are under constant attack by people filled with hate, Instead of being a world leader in attacking these problems, our country’s leaders are busy avoiding the wrath of the NRA while mass murders continue to accelerate.

There is no excuse for this kind of supremely selfish, cowardly behavior in those in power in what used to be the leader of the free world. It’s an atrocity that background checks and banning assault weapons is even under discussion as people are mowed down or lie in hospitals wounded and dying, and millions of others  fear for their lives and the lives of their children.

Stringent background checks and banning of ALL assault weapons and ways to make them should be immediate with NO DISCUSSION.

To do less or wait one minute longer can be considered nothing other than immoral, unethical, and yes, criminal. Leaders who are blocking this, and NRA, this is what you are will be remembered for.

A Note to and for Haters, Killers of All Kinds, and Certain Government Officials

I’ve been writing about hate and killing for some time now since they’re hardly compatible with my goal of helping us create less-stressed American cities. I agree with many of the suggestions offered by caring people about these matters, and here add my own specific ones, some of which may seem naive but–some readers tell me–that help them to feel more hopeful. I realize some of these suggestions will seem extreme to some (such as no guns, period). Yet in the end we have to get our heads out of the sand and acknowledge that the problems we to need solve in order to stop the violence are deeply embedded in our society, encouraged by leaders who are part of those problems. So it shouldn’t be surprising that the changes needed are dramatic. 

Our problems are not just from the bigotry now being considered fine by some, or from fear of those not like us, but also from our general acceptance of violence and weapons as necessary. Neither prejudice nor guns are necessary in a civilized society, and if we made the society more civilized with laws and whatever else it takes to show we value lives and peace, more of us would see that. (Isn’t a civilized society the goal? ) It’s not normal that some people see hate and violence as normal.

Each time there’s a massacre and whenever there’s cruelty or killing, I find I’m thinking the same thought. That is that along with gun control (at least) and the other changes most sensible people want, we also need deep and thoughtful change in our culture, and much of it should involve promoting kindness and empathy at every level and in every corner of the culture. Maybe that kind of change is what will finally convince those in elected office or otherwise in power that when they don’t act to stop mass murder and suffering, when their own personal goals come before the lives of others, they must accept some of the blame.

FOR THOSE WHO HATE

(The bold print below is accidental and so far we’ve been unable to return it to normal print. Please read as regular print–thanks.)

If you hate a certain group of people, or even one person, there are numerous ways you can turn off that hate, and it’s a good idea to try to do that. If you were trained to hate–and most people who hate have been trained–you owe it to others, to the world, and mostly to yourself to un-train yourself. There are many ways to do this. Practice empathy and kindness even if that’s new for you. Stop hanging out with other haters, and do whatever else you can to get yourself to the other side where you can learn about and begin to care for your neighbors. If you get to know your neighbors or acquaintances of other colors or backgrounds you’ll likely find they’re really cool people, nice to be with, and often have interesting life stories to tell. If you ask you’ll learn about their cuisine, how they like to party, what they miss from back home and what they love here. Your own life story is also of great interest–everyone’s is. So why not tell it to them, while removing prejudice, fear, rage, and cruelty from your mind. Then your life has a better chance to end up a happy and peaceful one, which is much harder to accomplish if you live in a cloud of hatred. 

Remind yourself that people can’t help where they were born, what color their skin is, or who their parents are. Put yourself in their shoes if they’re not like you, and stay there a few minutes. Realize that all most of them want is a chance to have a reasonably happy, healthy life, like you do. Many of us struggle with how to do that, and the struggle is hard enough without having to deal with hatred, violence, and the horrific loss of life mass shooters cause. 

If you’re still consumed with hate or the urge to harm, ask for help. One place you can get it is to google local mental health resources in your area and try to connect with one. One helpful national site (and group) is MHFA or Mental Health First Aid. Try going there to see their huge list of resources that can help with any kind of mental illness or pain. One of many helpful pages there is https://www.mentalhealthfirstaid.org/mental-health-resources/

Or go to a place online that’s about more positive emotions such as ways to be happier. One of many sites that may be helpful is https://www.sparringmind.com/be-happy/ . Or learn about how prejudices are formed, at a site like Very Well Minds, on this page:  https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-prejudice-2795476 

If you’ve read any history you may know that often the reasons people are taught to hate are based on false premises. A common human weakness is to find someone else to blame for our troubles even when it makes no sense. Other people may harm us at times, sure, but when entire groups, races, or religions are made into scapegoats you can bet the reasons for it don’t ring true. So stop believing things you hear coming out of the mouths of racists and bigots and get over your prejudices that some pathetic, clueless website, friend, or relative taught you. 

Look the rest of us straight in the eye and tell us that if you didn’t live here and were being persecuted or threatened, that you wouldn’t want to come to a freer country like this one where you thought you could be safe and have at least some kind of work. Persecuted people and refugees have done this throughout history. You know you’re a hypocrite if you say you wouldn’t do the same. Many immigrant families by the way come from places where family ties are close. This often makes them secure and loving people just because close families often foster those good feelings. That means they’re very nice people to know. All such families I’ve met tend to be warm, caring, and kind.

So please come out of the dark ages and stop accusing them of things they aren’t doing, and stop trying to hurt them. Maybe even try this: help them. Helping people makes the helper happier–too many researchers have found that to be true for you to doubt it. Try it. You’ll like it.

GUNS & THE ACT OF KILLING  

A great many people, myself included, believe there’s no excuse for killing for any reason, period. In fact by now we should have evolved enough as a species to be done with all killing including that done in wartime as a way to solve problems (we should be done with war as well). But even if we’re temporarily forced to participate in or suffer through wars by greedy, angry, selfish, and power-mad leaders, we don’t have to also kill each other at home.

As for guns themselves, they don’t belong in a peaceful, civilized society, end of story. Hunters, you won’t like this, but even killing animals for whatever reason has got to bring out something in you that cringes, doesn’t it? Truly evolved humans, in my view, should abhor inflicting pain on any other living thing. As long as a bunch of us go ahead and kill things (and most of us really don’t need that deer meat do we?) it will be easier for humans to find killing and maiming okay. 

That’s why I believe guns of ANY kind should be banned, and nothing short of that is acceptable. I’m not a naive wacko, I’ve just had enough. Haven’t you? Let’s say you still insist on having a gun. Whether or not you’re a member of the NRA, don’t you find it outrageous and kind of sickening that this group that tries to keep lots of guns around at all costs actually controls many of our elected officials? 

TO CERTAIN GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS

You’re not fooling anyone when you act only to protect your title as representative or senator or President, while letting suffering and injustice continue. No rep of mine who does that will ever get my vote again. Act to protect people from hate and gun violence now, and get ALL of it done, not just tiny steps.  And no I don’t want the death penalty–that’s just more violence, cruelty, and death.  Enough. 

OTHER KILLING IN OUR CULTURE ADDS TO THE GENERAL VIOLENCE

Because I believe that killing anything makes killing something else easier, I also believe we should stop the horrifying practice of animal agriculture. We may not personally hear the tortured, terrified cries of animals headed to and going through slaughter, but we know they’re out there, 24 hours a day. We know unless we lie to ourselves that that pain we cause, directly, or indirectly with our dollars, can’t be good for us either. When we do such things to other living things it should ring alarm bells in us, and I believe it would go along way toward creating a happier, more peaceful culture if we paid attention to those alarms.

Besides it also being awful for the environment and the fact that we can feed many more people with plants, continuing this practice means a certain number of humans–many who would rather not have such jobs but can find no other—will be forced to carry out that cruelty for hours a day even if it causes them great personal pain (the evidence is that it does for many of them, and they are never the same again).


I’m convinced that one day slaughtering for food as well as hunting for “sport” will be universally decried for the barbarous acts they are, that we’ll be seeing very few mass killings of people then as well, and that those two changes will be at least somewhat connected. This is why I include comments about animal killing when I write about hate and mass shootings of humans. Killing and causing suffering is too widely accepted in our culture, even though most of us don’t participate. It’s in the air too much. So I’m suggesting a holistic approach to stopping violence by stopping all violence of all kinds, so we get out of the habit of seeing and accepting it.

(Note: For a more detailed piece on some of these ideas, go to this blog’s first-ever post, written after the Parkland massacre.)